Boeing, Northrop trade blows on South Korean A-10 work

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Northrop Grumman has accused Boeing's supporters of "rank hypocrisy" after its opponent in the US Air Force's renewed KC-X tanker competition again acknowledged sending work on a US defence contract to South Korea.

Surrogates for the two manufacturers are waging an increasingly protectionist-themed debate about Northrop's selection of the Airbus A330-200 as the basis for its KC-45 offering for the KC-X deal.

"So, while Boeing cheerleads supporters who allege that Northrop Grumman should not be awarded the tanker contract because it will ship jobs overseas, Boeing is engaging in precisely that same practice," says a Northrop statement released in response to a report by flightglobal.com's The DEW Line blog.

 © USAF

Boeing has subcontracted Korea Aerospace Industries to build the outer wing panels for the USAF's Fairchild A-10 wing replacement programme. Boeing won the $2 billion contract last year after defeating a rival bid by a Lockheed Martin/Northrop team. By contrast, Northrop had proposed to base all manufacturing for the new A-10 wing in St Augustine, Florida.

"KAI is a supplier to Boeing and is providing the outer wing panels for the A-10 wing replacement programme," says Boeing. "The panels are a component of the wing assembly that Boeing is manufacturing at our Macon, Georgia plant. We have a lot of suppliers for the various parts that go into making the wing, [and] KAI is just one of them."

The US Department of Defense is expected to soon launch the second competition for the KC-X contract. The air force's original selection of Northrop was overturned in June by the US Government Accountability Office.

Boeing executives continue to believe the KC-767 is the best platform for the USAF's needs, but will make a final decision after the draft version of a revised request for proposals is released.